WHITE OLEANDER. 2002. DIRECTED BY PETER KOMINSKY. STARRING MICHELLE PFEIFFER, RENEE ZELLWEGER, ROBIN WRIGHT PENN, COLE HAUSER, BILLY CONNOLLY AND ALISON LOHMAN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
I’ve always loved this film. I saw it on video- that’s right, folks, on video- when it first came out and it’s had a special place in my heart ever since. It’s the story of pretty American teenager Astrid Magnusson, whose upbringing by artist single mom Ingrid- brilliantly played by Michelle Pfeiffer- has been unconventional, to say the least. Unconventional and deeply insecure…
Mom is beautiful and cold and self-centred. When it comes to relationships, she’s always believed in hurting and abandoning men before they get the chance to do it to her. Oddly enough, the one man to get under her skin is Scottish actor and comedian Billy Connolly as the boyfriend who uses her and then dumps her. The wee prick…! (As the man himself might say…)
Mom can’t handle Barry’s rejection of her. She poisons him using a flower, of all things- the titular white oleander- and lands herself in jail for thirty-five to life, as the judge tells her. When the prison doors clang shut behind Ingrid, thus begins Astrid’s painful, bitter series of experiences as a foster child.
She stays in rough, dog-eat-dog children’s home McKinney Hall in between living in three different foster homes. Her social worker means well, but the social worker gets to go home at the end of the day, unlike poor Astrid…
The kids in the home don’t like her. At least, the girls don’t, because Astrid has inherited her mother’s spectacular good looks and their boyfriends are all Astrid’s for the taking. Astrid doesn’t much care for her fellow inmates either. All except for shy, awkward but immensely talented Paul Trout, with whom she shares the bond of the artist.
Astrid’s foster home experiences are a train wreck, for the most part. Robin Wright Penn is terrific as the born-again former topless dancer whose live-in boyfriend Ray can’t resist Astrid’s nubile charms for long. Renee BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY Zellweger is equally great as poor damaged Claire, the washed-up actress whose fragile mental state leads both her and Astrid down a lonely road from which only one of them returns…
After cutting all ties with her manipulative, dangerous mother, Astrid finds contentment of a kind with foster mother Rena Grushenka. Rena is a Russian stall-holder whose money-grubbing ways Astrid finds unhypocritical and honest. Put plainly, it makes a change from other peoples’ bulls**t.
Just when Astrid thinks she’s finally free of her mother and her destructive love, however, Ingrid turns up in her daughter’s life once more looking for one big, final favour. Astrid has to decide whether to turn her back on her mother for good, which she has more than a half a mind to do, or whether to use this opportunity to get some answers out of Ingrid to some of the questions that have haunted her all her life.
I don’t mean to stereotype men or anything, but men probably won’t like this film. There aren’t any car-chases or explosions in it. It’s a feelings film, as Homer Simpson might say. It’s a film best washed down with loads of nice red wine liberally shared amongst gal-pals all wearing their pyjamas and fluffy bunny slippers.
There’s so much long blonde hair on screen, too, that it kind of makes the film float, if you know what I mean. It’s a floaty, ethereal feelings kind of film. Nope, blokes definitely won’t like it. But women will. I flippin’ love it. And if you watch it sometime, you just might end up loving it too.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
1) ‘… BY A WOMAN WALKING HER DOG…’
2) A WRITER’S JOURNEY
3) ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA
4) ANOTHER FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
5) CANCER BALLS
6) CATCH OF THE DAY
7) FIFTY FILTHY-DIRTY SEX-POEMS YOU MUST READ BEFORE I DIE.
8) FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
9) THE DEVIANTS
10) VISITING DAY